War Poet.ca - A CFAP Project by Suzanne Steele

hockey (from the diary)

thought I’d reprint this diary entry in honour of Canada’s Gold Medal in Sochi today. I remember this hockey game in 2008 between the officers and the men like it was just yesterday. I was amused and amazed at how the enlisted men jeered at the CO and the officers’ team and boo’ed when their hero Sgt. Joseph got put into the penalty box! hockey, the great leveller. I’ll post some pics of that game. more than a few of those players are gone, including Lt. Andrew Nuttall killed in A’stan. others could not come back and chose not to go on and took their own lives… the tragedy of this makes me at times, wordless, and grateful for all those like the folks at OSSIS who are there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to offer help… even checking in on a poet from time to time… bless them… anyway, here’s another exciting hockey game played with as much intensity as the Gold medal game today in Russia

the prairie on the cusp of winter, I flew in at dusk over its gorgeous fields, lit farmhouses, everything perfect, miniature, looking every bit like the Friendly Giant’s undersized world that I loved so much as a child (I date myself)… “and here’s a chair for two to curl up in… I’ll call Rusty”… then into Edmonton, a city resigning itself to winter, to attend some Christmas events at garrison.

one bright day, Cpl. picks me up at my hotel to drive to garrison, a great favour as I don’t want to drive the streets as everyone puts on snow-driving goggles again – some clearly need stronger prescriptions judging from the crazy driving. up through the city, across the North Saskatchewan, itself bracing for ice, and north through big box land to garrison. and while all bases are different, they are strangely similar and under a layer of snow, for a minute I think I’m in Shilo again.

we roll round a corner, turn into an icy parking lot jammed with cars and trucks, park, walk past cadres of smokers outside every door. they are in army maroon sweats, jackets, some in jeans, some with toques, caps, a huge diversity of clothing which makes them unrecognizable to me, I’m used to seeing them in their greens, their temperate CADPAT. it’s a funny thing about uniforms, somehow the individual stands out more in them… maybe it’s that we see the face clearer and aren’t distracted by the clothing…

into the hockey arena where the Officers versus the NCOs game has started. first period and the NCOs lead. rumour has it that the teams actually practiced this year. when I ask which side I should cheer for, someone says to me, well the NCOs of course.

hockey. the great leveler. the CO, wearing number 9 hockey shirt (what else would he wear?) as likely to get checked heavily as the WO, the Sgt… I sit in the stands with the companies. D Coy. are loud and laughing. they keep trying to get a wave going, but it dies somewhere 3/4 down the stands. I look at the young faces and think about this time next year. Afghanistan. far from hockey and snow and ice. a different world, a different set of rules. am I imagining or is this crowd a little subdued. maybe just getting ready to go home for Christmas in two days time. I watch the game again.

I see a Sgt. skate out from the benches. cheers. he’s clearly one of the best players, plays to win. the junior ranks chant his name over and over and over. I remember him from Shilo. I remember thinking, “that’s a soldier’s soldier,” one with whom I’d trust my life. competent. smart. wears his experience like a great coat.

the game goes as hockey games go. timeless. each one different, yet so alike. the slash of blades against ice, the clack of stick and puck, that delicious crunch of body check against the boards, the whistle of the refs as they dart like swallows up and down the ice, wave hands, point.

Sgt. goes into the penalty box. not happy. the crowd shouts, “let him play, let him play”…an officer goes down, cheers, a WO goes down, more cheers… this is the one hour of the year when it’s okay to overtly laugh at, cheer the downfall of, a superior… the gloves are off for this one hour, and as the game edges towards the final minutes, the checking gets a bit rougher… the score says 46 to 6 for the NCOs… someone’s playing with the scoreboard… the officers put their “duffer” line on for the last few minutes, the less experienced skaters, but they also put their CO on and he is a fierce athlete, a fierce skater… the cheering and booing gets louder from the stands, I notice that Tim’s coffee has been replaced with Pilsner… 10, 9, 8, 7… the buzzer and the officers claim the trophy this year… final score 8 – 6

the NCOs leave the ice fast, the officers ask me to take their photo in front of the net. they grin. know that just as easily the game could have gone the other way.

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The page you're reading contains a single diary entry entitled hockey (from the diary). It was posted here on February 23, 2014.


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